Open Letter to Senators Durbin, Feinstein, Franken and Schumer

22 May 2013

Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Dick Durbin
Senator Chuch Schumer
Senator Al Franken

Dear Honorable Senators,I write to you today completely dumbfounded at the lack of support demonstrated by the Democratic party for the fundamental rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. I am also perplexed by the complete dysfunction of our government. These were demonstrated to me yesterday when you failed to support Senator Patrick Leahy’s amendment to the immigration reform bill that would have granted rights of immigration to foreign partners of GLBT American citizens.

I met my partner Joe when I was in college, in 1994. I was living in St. Cloud, MN, at the time. Joe was a student at the University of Minnesota and I was studying at St. Cloud State University. In 1996, Joe and I moved into our first apartment together. In 1999 we purchased our first home in Maple Grove, MN. We moved to Seattle, WA, in 2001 and purchased our second home together there.

Joe is not a US citizen. He is a Filipino who was in the US on a student visa. Unfortunately in 2003, he was forced to return to his home in Manila, Philippines. After we had been together for nine years, our lives were shattered. I started taking all of my vacations in the Philippines or one of the handful of countries Joe could easily enter. Since 2003, I have not taken a vacation in the United States of America.

In 2005, when both Joe and I were suffering from severe depression, I took a job in Shanghai, China. I had worked for Microsoft since 1998 and was lucky to be able to transfer to an office in Asia. Although unable to enter the US, Joe was easily able to enter China. I spent five years living in Shanghai and was with Joe again. I’ll note that during this time, although I was earning in excess of $300,000 per year, I paid almost nothing in US taxes. Tax rates in China are higher than in the US, and therefore I paid most of my tax to a repressive, tyrannical Communist government.

After five years in China, I returned to Seattle. Joe continued to live in Manila. Soon, depression set in for both of us again. I’d ask you to image how your life would change if your spouse were suddenly forced to move 8,000 miles away. I continued to go to Asia frequently to visit Joe. It soon became too much to bear again. On September 1, 2012, I quit my job of almost 15 years at Microsoft. I sold my home. I gave up everything I had so I could simply be with the person I love.

I am now unemployed. I will pay no taxes as I will earn no income. I am exiled in Manila, but I am with Joe. Consider the cost in lost revenue to the IRS and the money I have been spending outside of the US to maintain residences in Asia for the past 10 years. The financial impact on the US economy is easily $1 million. There are countless thousands of couple like us. That figure is nothing in my mind, compared to the emotional and psychological duress Joe and I have been placed under.

I have always tried to be strong. I have tried to be the optimist. Every time my country acts in a way that marginalizes and invalidates our love, I try to find the example of the people who support us. In almost all cases, it has been in the Democratic party where I have found those examples. Wonderful examples of people who talk about fairness and equality and who come out publicly in support of same-sex marriage. In fact, I believe that all of you to whom I have addressed this letter have made public statements of your support of our relationship.

Yesterday you shattered the validity and genuine intent of anything you have said. You have shown that your support is in word only, and that when it comes time for action, for leadership, and for you to act in a way that demonstrates your words, you are not willing to do so. Yesterday you showed me that the dysfunction in our government is not only caused by the Republican party, but by the lack of genuine leadership in the Democratic party.

I know the Republicans threatened to kill the entire immigration bill. I know politics is a difficult game. I know there are trade offs. What I do not understand is why, in a body where Democrats have a majority, you are unwilling to force a vote and let the record show where our elected leaders stand. I do not understand why you are unwilling to be leaders when times are challenging. Instead you sit quietly, as a class of Americans – for which you have professed support – are continually marginalized and relegated to the back of the proverbial bus.

Senators, shame on you for allowing this to happen. Shame on you for letting Joe and I only dream the American dream with no chance to realize it. Shame on you for using the LGBT community as a talking point with no real intent to represent us. We are struggling. We are treated as unequal by our government and laws. We are torn from our families. We leave the country we love to be with the person we love because we are given no other choice.

We will continue to fight for our rights. We need your leadership, not your lip service.

Sincerely,

Kyle Smith

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